The Grand Re-Opening
I had been resistant to getting a new dog. We couldn’t afford one; we couldn’t afford the time to train a pup, the sleep deprivation, the continual puppy proofing the areas he would reside in, the contingent poop and pee cleanup. We couldn’t financially afford the shots, the toys, the food, the new crate. It was just too much stuff all at once, and we were just getting established as a couple and as a family.
That wasn’t the true reason I didn’t want a dog. I had been resistant because of a dog I’d had before, the dog I left behind. I loved this dog with all my heart, he was my “first.” I did not want to disrespect that dog by replacing him. I always questioned if my decision to leave him behind with my ex was right. My head always said yes, but my heart always said no. This left a war inside of me of enormous proportions that I could only allow to play out as it would, a sort of inner-Vietnam that ended only with withdrawal, but not with surrender.
So I put my foot down for a long time. “No, no dogs.” I would add the caveat the sake of mollification: “Not yet.” Maybe someday. Maybe someday I would be ready. Maybe someday our home situation would be perfect for a puppy. That would be when we could get a puppy: when we were independently wealthy and didn’t have to work and had all the time in the world to train a pup the proper way. Yeah, then.
I added another caveat to my “no dogs” edict: “I’ll know my dog when I see him.” I knew I would know the right dog for us when I saw him. It would be a chemical thing, like falling in love. I would not be swayed by cute fluff balls and wide expressive eyes. I would not be swayed by the tug of puppy teeth and the scent of puppy breath through a cage as we wandered through the aisles of a rescue. I would not be swayed; I would not be swayed until the perfect time when we were independently wealthy. In this way, I could save our money, our time, and my heart. I would just use my intuition (which I heretofore had never had) to know the when and the which one.
My partner continued to try to bend me, showing me pictures on the internet of homeless pups and rescue pups. She tried every breed; I saw terriers and shih tzus, Pomeranians and Pekinese, Maltese and min-pins. I saw every mutt with a happy, drooly, grinning face, and heard every sad story about why the owners could not keep said dog. And my response was always the same: “Oh, yes, he’s so cute, but no, not yet.”
What it came down to was that I was not ready to forgive myself. It’s not as though the dog I left behind wasn’t loved; I knew my ex loved him as much as I did. I didn’t leave him in some rat hole; it’s a two bedroom, one bath with a fenced back yard. But circumstances dictated that I leave, and leave my boy behind. Did that kind of behavior even warrant the luxury of having another dog again? I wondered in silence but responded with “No, not yet.”
Until one day, while trolling the internet for that love match for me yet again, my partner turned the screen towards me and said, “Baby, look.” Two males, pug crossed with dachshund, both auburn with black muzzles. Their mother had died shortly after birth and their father had gone missing.
“Wow, they’re really cute,” I said.
I’m sure my partner was shocked that she didn’t receive my standard, “Oh, yes, they’re so cute, but no, not yet.” She could only pause and let me look at the picture.
“They’re only two hours away, and they don’t want a lot of money, just to cover the shots,” she offered.
“Yeah, they’re really cute,” I responded again.
Something in me said that’s your dog. I knew in theory that it would happen like that, but I was surprised that it actually did happen.
Two days later my partner and I were in the very nice home of some very nice people trying to rehome the last two of the surprise litter of their two lost but beloved house dogs. I sat cross-legged on the floor, and the daughter put the pups down about three feet from me. They were barely bigger than hamsters, just eight weeks old to the day. One of them walked right to me, as though he knew me, crawled in my lap, as though my lap were his home. The other had nothing to do with me, had nothing to do with either my partner or me. The first pup explored me, my fingers, tasting, smelling, intent. I looked up at my partner as I cuddled the warm ball of fur to my neck, and our eyes met. She smiled at me and fished through her purse for the nominal rehoming fee.
That little guy rode home most of the way with me, on my chest, staring into my eyes as I stared back into his. He studied me hard, calmly, gazing, as though memorizing. I thought perhaps that he was imprinting me (as I was him) but I think it was more than that, now that I think back on it. I think he was singing The Byrds, as sometimes he still sings, even now, softly, as he lays against my leg as I write this about him, “To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”